Misconduct hearing begins for Marion Co. judge who won't perform - KPTV - FOX 12

Misconduct hearing begins for Marion Co. judge who won't perform same-sex marriages

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SALEM, OR (KPTV) -

The ethics hearing for a Marion County judge facing several allegations of judicial misconduct, including an accusation that he inappropriately screened wedding applicants to determine if they were gay couples, is underway.

The Oregon Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability is holding a rare public hearing to determine if Judge Vance Day violated Oregon’s Code of Judicial Conduct and the state and U.S. Constitution.

“[The code is] not a massive list of principles. There are six,” said Victoria Blachly, an attorney for the commission. “But they are important because the public deserves to be treated fairly by judges who demonstrate those principles, both on and off the bench.”

Several people wearing stickers reading “I stand with Judge Day” sat in the audience for opening statements.

Day is facing 13 allegations, ranging from hanging a portrait of Adolf Hitler in the courthouse, to his behavior at his son’s college soccer game, to allowing a man convicted of felony DUII to handle a gun in his presence.

Day is also accused of inappropriately screening wedding applicants to determine if they were gay.

His attorney, Ralph Spooner, believes that is the reason the judge is facing the other allegations.

“I think we all know it's the elephant in the room,” said Spooner. “The big story is the same-sex marriage issue.”

In a previous interview with Fox 12, Day admitted instructing his staff to direct gay couples to other judges because he did not want to perform same-sex marriages due to his religious beliefs.

Oregon judges are not required by law to perform marriages.

His religious beliefs do not mean Day discriminates against gay people, said Spooner.

“He simply told his staff, who then told others and then the commission decided we'll make you the guinea pig for our test case to find out whether this does or does not violate any judicial canon,” said Spooner.

Spooner says the other events were taken out of context and claims the commission investigator did not interview every witness available before filing complaints.

For example, the portrait of Hitler was part of a collage created to honor a local World War 2 veteran. The veteran brought the portrait back from Germany.

The hearing is expected to last for two weeks.

Blachly said the commission has to determine if Day meets the high standards he swore to uphold when he took office.

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